A good friend of mine leaned back in his chair and said the following profound statement:
"[God] made an appearance for 'Doubting Thomas', why not me?"
|Francesco de' Rossi's painting 'The Doubting of St. Thomas' (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
"The Bible proves that God exists because he said he wrote it and thus, he did."
My counter to that is simple. Many holy books and religious leaders say the exact same thing. They state that their religion is true, even exclusive to other religions. Sometimes, they even go as far as the writers of the Bible and say that you're a fool if you don't agree with them. I find these written statements to be quite presumptuous on the writer's part and actually quite intellectually lazy.
If you cannot prove what you are writing, don't patronize the reader. Any other book that tries to play that game will be laughed off of a book store's bookshelf. Some may try it, but we apply academic rigor and reasonable logic to thwart the slaps of the author. Nobody that writes a statement like that can or should be taken seriously.
Or, they say something like this:
"The Holy Spirit has done a great work in me, so I know he exists."
If you cannot prove what you are writing, don't patronize the reader. Any other book that tries to play that game will be laughed off of a book store's bookshelf. How can a person say that? Couldn't it be their mind that taught them how to live? Experiential growth and maturity in life? I would consider that more likely than an imaginary existence of a being inside of you. (Disclaimer: This response is one that I respect. It removes the need to treat the Bible as an inerrant and infallible guide book and allows the person of faith to live a life of caring and love. Even so, I still must engage with a question of "prove it, I want video".)
But, there are two other responses I get (other than the intellectually lazy responses that say that the world around us makes it obvious that God made it and my personal favorite, there were thousands of witnesses in Jesus' time and they all corroborated his existence - not even remotely factually accurate) raise my eyebrows so high that my forehead looks like a hound dog's cheeks.
"JESUS IS LORD!" Or, "PRAISE JESUS!"Any other variant of those two phrases is pretty comical. If I ask more questions, I get the same answer shouted back at me. It's almost like the person doing the yelling believes that his words will somehow shock me into the obvious realization that they are right and I am wrong. But all I am doing is asking questions to make them think. Why bother yelling?
And the second - and really, the point of this post - statement:
"You have to have faith. God does not have to show himself to you. If you don't believe, you'll just go to hell. Stop being a doubting Thomas."I don't blame the bearer of this news at all. I'll explain in a bit why they have the story of Didymus (Thomas) all wrong, but first, let's see why it's expected that a Christian believes this.
The writer of 1 Corinthians 1:18 scratches the backs of those who believe what he is writing by telling them that all who reject his words are going to hell anyway, so it's to be expected. So you see, a Christian who swallows this teaching is obligated to treat the Bible, if they believe that is in fact God's word, as factual, because it says it is, even if the logic is against them.
There is a problem though. That teaching is in stark contrast to the alleged words of Jesus in the book of John. Jesus didn't refuse to allay Thomas' doubts by quoting 1 Corinthians 1:18 at him. No. He actually said, "You have seen, so now you believe." And he didn't follow it up with, "so you're going to hell." Or, "you're the only lucky bloke that got to see me but everyone else has to just believe or they go to hell."
That last statement is not Jesus' alleged words. And yet, it is exactly the sort of attitude that oozes from fundamentalist Christianity or any branch of Christianity that purports itself to be the exclusive path to heaven.
But, I stand with Thomas and my friend, and, by default, Jesus himself. If God really does exist, if Jesus is really God's son and can walk through walls to show himself to Thomas, he sure as bloody nails can do the same to any doubter in the entire universe.
I'm waiting. But I won't hold my breath.